Dinner Speech



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--> Working Together in the Twenty-First Century PHILIP M. CONDIT The Boeing Company Seattle, Washington It is great to be with you, "the best of the best" of our young engineering community from industry, government, and academia. As an engineer and a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), I am honored to be here. Let me, first, congratulate you on your selection from 270 nominees to participate in NAE's Third Annual Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. Second, I want to thank President Bill Wulf and the NAE for hosting this symposium, which allows you to find out about new research and pioneer thinking across many different fields. You are certainly working on exciting projects—from the biomechanics of cells and tissue engineering to distributed satellite systems, from instrumentation for the evaluation of the lungs to blended-wing-body aircraft concepts, and much more. This symposium offers you great opportunity to learn and work together. I find that dialogue is the best way of learning. But before we start that dialogue, I would like to talk a little about change, the need to work together, and the ability to think differently about ourselves. First, change. We live in rapidly changing times. In just the past few months, NATO signed a new partnership agreement with its former Cold War adversary Russia, and Hong Kong reverted back to China. The Internet and CNN link us daily to other cultures and continents—even to outer space. Today we send mail electronically to each other that is delivered in seconds, and we are eyewitnesses to natural disasters and onboard space shuttle conversations … all from our homes. We live in a time of phenomenal change, and we need to recognize this change. I think it is important to understand that this is a new phenomenon. If you had lived in medieval times, you would have seen little change. You

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--> automatically did what your grandfather and father did, and your children followed. Skills and crafts passed from generation to generation. And in the 1700s, people traveled very slowly by horse and buggy—like Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton to their meeting to sign the U.S. Constitution, 219 years ago. Many of you traveled quickly by air to this meeting here in California. Airplanes were not even created 100 years ago, and the first artificial earth satellite, Sputnik, was launched into orbit only 40 years ago. Today, we watch a tiny vehicle chug around Mars on our TV or computer. Technology and, as a result, the world are changing at an increasing rate. We have to keep up! So what are the implications of all this change for each of us? I think the implications are that either we must adapt to change or simply disappear. The Darwinian imperative says, ''If we're unwilling to change, someone else will, and go forward with it." Let me give you a couple of examples. At the turn of the century, the seventh-largest company in the United States (Boeing is number 10 today) made buggy whips, saddles, and carriage seats. Because that company failed to adapt when the motor car arrived, it does not exist today. On the other hand, the Warren Featherbone Company, founded in 1883 in Michigan, does. It first recognized the need to replace more expensive whalebone used for women's corset stays. It invented a new stay material made from turkey feathers discarded in making feather dusters and created a cheaper, more pliable stay material. Then fashion changed. The company had to adapt or go out of business, so it moved to rubber diaper covers. Then came disposable diapers. It learned to survive and thrive by reinventing and refocusing again. Today, the company is a successful baby clothing manufacturer in Georgia. At Boeing I had to learn, too! When I first went to Boeing in 1965, the biggest computer in the world couldn't compare to what I carry in my briefcase today. In the 1960s, airplanes were designed in two dimensions using pen and ink on big sheets of mylar. Now our people create airplanes entirely electronically. They work and rotate colorful, solid, three-dimensional models to see all dimensions of their design. We need to recognize and adapt to change. Second, working together. I happen to believe we control our own destinies and that we can accomplish great things by working together. The Boeing Company was founded in 1916 by aviation pioneer Bill Boeing. He hired Tsu Wong as the company's first aeronautical engineer to replace Boeing's original business partner, Conrad Westerveldt. An engineering graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tsu Wong became the first chief engineer at Boeing. During those early days of the company, employees such as Tsu Wong sat together at the Red Barn, the company's first building in Seattle. Engineers upstairs; builders downstairs … working together side by side … solving problems. Boeing grew bigger as the years rolled by. Bureaucracy crept in. Groups became isolated. The process

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--> became serial. People did only their piece of the job and handed it over to the next without sharing knowledge or resources. When the idea of a whole new airplane family—the Boeing 777—came along, we knew we had to do something different. The 777 has 3 million parts, including 2,885 pieces of tubing, 1,300 wire bundles, 14 tires, and 2 huge engines. To produce our new 777, it would take a new approach: a lot of people and a lot of people working together. We looked to those first days of the company and its rich heritage to create the 777. And we began by creating a mission. Our mission statement became working together to produce the preferred new airplane. First, two key words: working together. As the 777 program started to develop, we said, "Let's invite our customers in; let's create teams to design and build our new airplane family; let's all work together." At first it was difficult. None of us likes someone watching us. We like to complete our work before showing it to someone. A teacher friend of mine gave me a button a few years ago that read, "None of us is as smart as all of us." I believe that statement is true. I also believe it works well with the two words working together . We can do magical things working together. In fact, our customers really helped us with the 777. They helped a lot, and they helped with literally thousands of things: reading lights that can be easily changed in flight and understanding that a latch, designed to be operated by a 99 percentile-sized human finger, didn't work with a glove on in minus 15 degrees at Chicago's O'Hare airport in January. We learned that it's worthwhile to listen closely to the customer. The 777 is an airplane of thousands of ''working together" ideas. Second, the next key word—preferred. Only the customer gets to decide what is "preferred." Preferred is a very strong reminder. When I was seen jumping up and down at the first flight of the 777 a few years ago, I was asked "Why? Didn't you think it would fly?" The answer was that I knew it would fly, and I was excited because it proved that the process of working together worked. Today at Boeing, working together is an integral part of how we design and build everything from the international space station to the joint strike fighter. Working together works. None of us is as smart as all of us. Third, the ability to think differently about ourselves. I'm often asked, "What's the most important thing you've learned in the past 10 years?" And I have to answer, "I can never say airplanes are different." Learning to say that I'm not different, that my industry is not different, that my business is not different, is hard. Airplanes are amazing. They're big, they're complex, they fly. They're amazing machines. But saying "my airplanes are different" is the best excuse for not learning. What you should want to do is learn from everyone. What you do isn't so special that you can't learn from anyone you meet. We learned that by standing on the production line at Toyota—a very dramatically efficient pro-

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--> duction system. If we had thought "interesting … but airplanes are different," we would not be improving the Boeing production system today. During that visit to Toyota a few years ago, we learned that we could never again say "but we're different." The ability to think differently about ourselves, to continuously learn allows us to change. And that brings me full circle. First, the world is changing rapidly. Our choice is to recognize that it is happening. Second, working together is a powerful concept. None of us is as smart as all of us. Third, we must be willing to think of ourselves differently. If we do that, I believe we can survive in the twenty-first century.